South Africa: Presidency Responds to Electricity Minister's Role

The Presidency has moved to clarify some of the frequently asked questions on the role of the Minister in the Presidency responsible for electricity.

On the question on role of the Minister in the Presidency, the Presidency noted that the appointment follows the announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa during his 2023 State of the Nation Address (SONA), on his intention to appoint a Minister of Electricity to coordinate government's response to the electricity crisis as a national priority.

The Presidency highlighted that several government departments and agencies, as well as Eskom, are involved in implementing the Energy Action Plan [and] the Minister "will ensure strong coordination of this plan from the centre of government".

To achieve this, it said, the President has tasked the Minister with overseeing all aspects of the electricity crisis response, including the work of the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM).

The Minister's primary responsibility is to ensure full implementation of the Energy Action Plan within the next twelve months, the Presidency said.

"In short, the Minister will be expected to coordinate the numerous departments and entities involved in the crisis response; work with the Eskom leadership and management to turn around the performance of existing power stations; ensure that new generation capacity is procured on an expedited basis; and take the lead in communicating to the public on the energy crisis," the Presidency explained.

What powers and functions have been assigned to the new Minister?

Regarding the powers and functions that have been assigned to the new Minister, the Presidency referred to Section 97 of the Constitution which states that:

"The President by proclamation may transfer to a member of the Cabinet -

(a) the administration of any legislation entrusted to another member; or

(b) any power or function entrusted by legislation to another member."

The President has signed a proclamation that transfers to the Minister of Electricity certain powers and functions entrusted by the Electricity Regulation Act (Act No 4 of 2006).

Specifically, this relates to all powers and functions contained in Section 34(1) of the Electricity Regulation Act, which were previously entrusted to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy.

"Section 34(1) of the Electricity Regulation Act empowers the Minister to issue a determination that new generation capacity is needed in order to ensure security of energy supply. This includes the amount of new capacity that must be procured; the type of capacity (for example, wind or solar PV); and the manner in which it must be procured.

"This provides the Minister with a powerful tool to address South Africa's current energy shortfall, by directing the actions that are required to build new generation capacity," the statement said.

What powers and functions remain with the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and the Minister of Public Enterprises?

On the question regarding the powers and functions remain with the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy and the Minister of Public Enterprises, the Presidency explained that Minerals Resources and Energy Minister will in terms of Section 34(2) of the Electricity Regulation Act continue to be in charge of the procurement process of new generation capacity, "which is carried out by the Independent Power Producer Office (IPP Office)".

It reiterated that the IPP Office will remain responsible for implementing various initiatives outlined in the Energy Action Plan, and matters related to energy policy generally, including long-term energy planning, regulation, fuel price determination, petroleum and gas policy, pipelines and licensing thereof, will remain with Mineral Resources and Energy Minister.

"In terms of the Eskom Conversion Act, the Minister of Public Enterprises remains the shareholder representative for Eskom. This includes appointing the Eskom Board, and overseeing the restructuring of Eskom into three separate entities for generation, transmission and distribution. The Minister's current focus is on completing the establishment of the National Transmission Company of South Africa, as a crucial step in the wider reform of the energy sector.

"This division of responsibilities will allow the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity to apply a dedicated focus to the immediate crisis response, while other functions remain with the relevant Ministries," the Presidency explained.

How will this support the implementation of the Energy Action Plan?

Explaining the support on the implementation of the Energy Action Plan, the Presidency emphasised that the President has appointed the Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity to ensure tight overall management of the electricity crisis response with a single point of authority and a single line of reporting, "both of which are essential to achieving rapid progress on the plan".

It explained that the current assignment of powers aims to empower the new Minister to direct and coordinate the implementation of the Energy Action Plan, without disrupting the routine work of government or requiring changes to personnel and institutions.

Through the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECOM), the Presidency said, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Electricity will oversee implementation of the plan announced by the President in July 2022, and ensure that all government departments and agencies, as well as Eskom, implement the actions for which they are responsible.

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